Government heeds boaters’ diesel bug concerns

The Department for Transport modifies its position on EU fuels directive after lobbying

The government seems to have heeded the marine industry’s concerns about widespread problems with diesel bug in interpreting an EU Directive demanding that boats fill up with cleaner diesel.

The Directive states that all gas oil – red diesel – used in “non-road mobile machinery” and “inland waterway vessels and recreational craft when not at sea” will have to contain no more than 10 milligrams of sulphur per kilogram of fuel.

The problem was one of interpretation: the government could not, until recently, decide exactly what constituted ‘inland’. Nor could anyone be certain that in meeting the Directive, fuel suppliers wouldn’t simply supply road diesel – already virtually sulphur-free – marked red.

Road diesel contains up to 7% biodiesel, which is much more prone to microbial contamination thanks to its water-attracting properties, and has the potential to cause big problems on boats where fuel sits in tanks for long periods.

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Motor Boat & Yachting | Diesel BugMBY has now learned, however, that the Department for Transport is leaning towards the following definition for ‘at sea’: “The sea and all estuaries and arms of the sea directly connected thereto”.

We have also been told that fuel suppliers are now awake to the problems biodiesel can cause in boats, and many have undertaken to supply their marine customers with sulphur-free fuel with no biodiesel content.

Off the back of this, the DfT has estimated that a minimum of 75% of fuel that will be available to boats on January 1 next year will have no biodiesel content.

While good news, much of the above has yet to be formally confirmed, and some fuel suppliers have still not responded to questions about supplying sulphur-free fuel to boats.

The British Marine Federation is now urging its members to contact their fuel suppliers to find out exactly what kind of diesel will be supplied from January 1 next year.

Photos: ECHA Microbiology

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